What is gluten?
To understand the whole situation with gluten, gluten-free, nutrient deficiency and weight loss it is important to know what gluten actually is.
Gluten is a protein. You will find it in whole grain. Whole grain contains 3 parts:
(Refined grains only contain the endosperm. The nutrient-dense bran and germ are no longer there.)
The main characteristic is to maintain the shape of the food it is found in. It acts like a glue keeping all the different components together. When you think of where to find gluten your first thought might be of bread. And that’s right, but gluten is part of many more everyday foods and even beverages. You will find it for example in these foods:
- wheat (has the highest proportion of gluten from all grains)
And therefore foods like pasta, bread, crackers or beer can contain gluten.
Gluten has a special role when it comes to baking. When water is added to flour and then mixed the protein gives the dough it´s elasticity and strength. The gluten is, for example, pretending bread from moisture loss. You can see it as a natural preservative.
Most people don´t know what gluten is and they just follow a hype. There is a funny video from Jimmy Kimmel and it shows that gluten is mostly related to weight gain and being unhealthy. They are all proud to be on a gluten-free diet. But when digging deeper, the real knowledge behind their food choices is missing.
Gluten-free and nutrient deficiency
Now that you know where gluten is to be found you might get a first idea why gluten-free can lead to some serious lack of nutrients. If you cut out nutrient-dense foods like whole grains you automatically cut out good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Which are crucial to every healthy, balanced diet.
You will miss out on B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. (see my article “Stupid simple ways to improve your fitness” and learn more about the importance of those vitamins and minerals)
The right amount of healthy carbs from whole grain foods is the best method to keep your blood sugar balanced. Additionally, you are avoiding the chance of diabetes. Another bonus is your hunger will be more satisfied throughout the day.
To make foods gluten-free they have to be highly processed. And as you can imagine, everything that is processed loses its natural high quality and therefore necessary health benefits.
Most gluten-free foods are “designed” with nutrient-poor alternatives. A package labeled as gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s a healthy food. In fact, it says nothing about nutritional value.
Why do people feel healthier after removing gluten?
As long as you don’t have serious health problems like celiac disease there is no need to abandon gluten from your diet. The reason people see an improvement in their health, might be due to the bad food choices they made before. It makes sense that they feel better when they no longer consume sugary, high carb meals. Most of the snacks and treats come gluten loaded.
So, unless a doctor hasn’t diagnosed a medical issue with gluten, don’t fall for the hype. But if you are diagnosed with an issue, these foods are naturally gluten-free:
- fruits, vegetables
Keep that in mind: “Gluten-free is not a synonym for healthy or low in calories.” Just because you see more and more foods labeled as gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s good. You get fewer nutrients for more money. Bad deal, right?!
Surprising foods that contain gluten
However, if you have a serious health condition and your body can’t handle gluten at all, it is important to avoid gluten at any cost. You will be surprised to see which foods can contain traces of gluten. Sometimes gluten is used as a thickening agent and filler.
- Everything with a breaded crust (for example schnitzel, the meat itself is, of course, gluten-free but the coating is made of bread and therefore full of gluten)
- Mashed potatoes
- ice cream
- medication (inactive ingredients in many medications are gluten based)
- vegetables (when eating out, “vegetables get contaminated because they are steamed over pots of pasta water”
- fish, chicken (when eating out, “fish and chicken are floured to hold seasoning”)
- instant meals